The father of the great Hollywood star system and the original movie mogul, Carl Laemmle, the founder of Universal Studios, was an influential figure indeed. He was born to a middle-class Jewish family, the 10th of 13 children in Laupheim, Germany. By age 13 he had become a bookkeeper and four years later he was an office manager. In search of new opportunities, he moved to the U.S. at age 17 and began working as a courier for a New York drug store in 1884. After holding down several odd-jobs in Chicago, Laemmle settled in Oshkosh, Wisconsin where he became the manager of a clothing store.
Following marriage to his employer's daughter, Laemmle moved back to the Windy City and spent his savings on one of the nickelodeons that had become so popular amongst the working class. It was a lucrative venture, and in early 1906, he was able to open another and two months later still another. Because he found the local film exchange an unreliable source of new film, the enterprising Laemmle launched his own Laemmle Film Service the following year. It too proved profitable and it wasn't long before he was among the biggest film distributors in North America. His largest competitor was the powerful, notoriously ruthless Motion Picture Patents Company. Unlike other small distributors, Laemmle refused to succumb to their pressure and would neither sell his business to them nor shut it down. Instead he founded the Independent Motion Picture Company of America (IMP), made Hiawatha, and launched an unprecedented publicity campaign designed to both promote the film and slander the Patents Company. In 1910, he stole the beloved "Biograph Girl," Florence Lawrence from them.